Wednesday, October 10, 2012

!أهلاً وسهلاً (Welcome!)




These are certainly historic times in Cairo.  In early 2011, the entire world saw Egyptians gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square (among other places), and demand not just the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, but also democratization.  Mubarak eventually stepped down, and the country recently held elections.  But it would be a mistake to characterize Egypt as a post-revolutionary state.  The country is certainly in a transition period, but the Revolution is far from over.  The next stage in the Revolution (and the more important) is likely to be a mental emancipation from, and structural reform of, a socio-political structure  that many in the region see as super-imposed from above. The result is the construction of an indigenously crafted Cairo to bring to the international table. But in this initial post, I just want to make 3 short points, and then I will continue to write about Egypt and my experiences here in future posts. 

(1) The youth here have a very strong resolve.  If the demonstrations in Tahrir were not indicative enough, I myself experienced student-led protests/strike here at AUC.  Without getting into the underlying details, the students chained the gates of the university, preventing faculty, staff, or additional students from entering.  The university subsequently suspended its operations for approximately two weeks.  The important thing however is to understand the link between the demonstrations in Tahrir (location of AUC's downtown campus) and the resiliency exemplified by the students here.  Certainly it is a much more isolated incident, but it does indicate that Egyptians, specifically the youth, value their country's democratization and will continue to stand up if something should threaten that process. 

(2) A lot of intellectual discourse here at the university is centered on redefining how Egyptians, Arabs, and the region in general are viewed.  The region has historically been viewed through particular lenses, but part of the mental emancipation alluded to above is to reconstruct Egyptian and Arab identity and provide a counter-narrative more representative of the region. 

(3) Egypt, and the region in general, are not monolithic.  Connected to the second point, it is naive and incorrect to generalize about the demographic and societal realities, while neglecting the cultural, religious, and geographic variety here (even within Egypt itself).  I will touch on this point in future posts, but it is important to keep in mind when trying to understand the complexities of the region (especially considering the fact that Egypt has a significant and very visible Christian minority population).

Additionally, I just want to share some pictures/videos below, some of which illustrate some of the points made above (i.e. rich history, cultural diversity, resolute youth, etc.)


Revolutionary art in AUC's New Campus. There are about 17 of these large collages on campus. 

Another few. 
video

Revolutionary art in AUC's downtown Tahrir campus (right at the heart of the 2011 demonstrations).  There are pictures as well, but this short clip is probably most efficient. 

Qasr en-Nil Bridge in downtown Cairo.

A view of the Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza
Atop one of the pyramids


The lesser known Step Pyramid in Saqqara.  It is the world's oldest stone monument (built 2650 B.C.)
The Red Pyramid in Dahshur. 
The Bent Pyramid in Dahshur


Rooftop view of one part of Islamic Cairo.
On a window in Islamic Cairo.

Fishing on the Red Sea.
video

Sunset on the Red Sea. 



The Monastery of Saint Anthony.  Built in the 4th Century C.E., it is said to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest,  Christian monasteries in the world.

video

View from a top the mountain we hiked. Visible is the Monastery below, the Red Sea off to the far right behind the mountain, and at the end a view of the Cave of Saint Anthony.

The Cave of Saint Anthony.


The Mediterranean Coast in Alexandria.
The Citadel of Sultan Qaitbay (built 882 A.H./1477 C.E.)

View of the Mediterranean Sea and Alexandria. 

The Library of Alexandria visible in the background.



The fishing boats of Alexandria.

Another view of Alexandria. 




Friday, October 5, 2012

From Russia With Love

St. Petersburg


St. Petersburg

View of the River Neva from the Hermitage Museum, founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great

Kuznechny Market

The Hermitage

Petergof, St. Petersburg

The St. Petersburg subway

St. Petersburg University

The dorm

St. Petersburg


The Hermitage

The Hermitage Museum

Kuznechny Market
St. Petersburg

Photos by Eric Brownstein, Master in International Service, SIS Graduate Semester Abroad at St. Petersburg University, Russia